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Intelligentsia Socialism and the “Workers' Revolution”: The Views of J. W. Machajski

Abstract

The notion that the leadership of industrial society must eventually be ceded to an educated elite of technical and administrative experts is an important theme in the social thought of the last two centuries. It can be found as early as Saint-Simon's plans for the Système Industriel. As a criticism of the supposedly anti-proletarian aspects of Socialism it is commonly thought to have originated with James Burnham's idea of a “managerial revolution” and appeared later with Milovan Djilas's “new class”. Actually the criticism of “State Socialism” in general, and of Marxism in particular, for an alleged tropism toward managerialism was also a weapon in the arsenal of nineteenth century anarchism. An integral part of Bakunin's criticism of Marx, whom he called the “Bismarck of Socialism”, was the contention that Marxism in power would organize society “under the direct command of state engineers who will constitute a new privileged scientific-political class”. This thesis has had its most consistent and rigorous formulation in the work of Jan Waclaw Machajski, a Polish-Russian revolutionary who based his theory on the conviction that Socialism was not the ideology of the proletariat but of what he called the “intellectual workers”, the new middle class of white collar employees generated by industrial capitalism. The most important antagonism in modern society, thought Machajski, was that between the educated – to whom he gave the inclusive term “bourgeois society” – and the uneducated manual laborers. He argued that a portion of educated society, the Socialist intelligentsia with Marxists in the forefront, was attempting to gain for itself a privileged position in capitalist society by turning the labor movement away from direct action for higher wages and toward a struggle for parliamentary power which could only benefit the intellectual workers.

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International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
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